East: Liberty triumphs; SMU, Duke fall short
A breakdown of the third and final round of the East Regioal, played at at Grandover Resort’s East Course in Greensboro, N.C.:
Team winner: Liberty, 4-over 868
Individual winner: Vaita Guillaume, Campbell; Robert Karlsson, Liberty; Matt Schovee, Liberty (3-under 213)
Also moving on: 2. Florida (871), 3. Auburn (874), 4. Lamar (877), 5. Tulsa (878)
Individual: Guillame (won sudden-death playoff)
Third time is a charm: Now in year No. 3 at the Auburn helm, head coach Nick Clinard will take a team to the national championship for the first time. The Tigers missed advancing each of the past two years, but with the No. 1 seed at the East Regional, safely skated through to the finals with a third-place finish. Still, it didn’t look as if it would be that easy early in the day.
Auburn entered the final round in fourth, dropped to seventh early in the day, then went a combined 8 under in the final four holes to jump to to third. Blayne Barber’s performance was perhaps the most impressive, as the junior finished his round birdie, hole-in-one, par, birdie.
“It is just hard to put into words,” Clinard said. “The guys really hung tough and did what they had to do, and they just stuck to their game plan. Blayne Barber, you just can’t say enough about what he did coming down the stretch.”
Mighty finish: Liberty earned a third consecutive victory Saturday, and perhaps the most important of the season. The Flames came out on top of the East Regional to earn a trip to the national championship. It becomes the first Big South men’s golf team to win an NCAA Regional and the fourth to advance to the NCAA Championship.
Florida rallied hard at the end of the day in an attempt to knock Liberty from the top of the leaderboard, but the Flames counted four birdies at No. 18 to finish three shots ahead of the Gators.
Short shots: SMU had a dramatic fall down the leaderboard on Saturday, posting a 13-over 301 to finish five shots out of the team qualifiers. Josh Gregory, who coached Augusta State to the NCAA Championship title each of the past two years, led his Mustangs to opening rounds of 288, 294 to enter the final round in second. . . . Campbell’s Vaita Guillaume made a par 4 at No. 10, the first hole of sudden death, to defeat Matt Schovee and earn the a spot in the national championship as an individual. Liberty’s Robert Karlsson, the third player to tie for medalist honors at 3-under 213, was not included in that playoff because he had already qualified with his team. . . . Duke won’t get the opportunity to display its match-play prowess at the national championship. The Blue Devils, who won the Callaway Collegiate Match Play last year and finished runner-up this year, fell three shots short of advancing through the East Regional.